Pelt by Matt Peyton
IMAGES: To download, click above. Credit to Matt Peyton.


Three Lobed Recordings


Three Lobed

For almost thirty years and over the course of countless releases, the American band Pelt has traversed non-idiomatic improv, Eastern-tinged psychoacoustic drones, and—in its earliest incarnation—noisy post rock. The group once counted among its ranks the late guitarist Jack Rose, whose spirit continues to imbue Pelt’s music with a sound that is as forward-thinking as it is refreshingly unpretentious.

Like fellow travelers Daniel Bachman, Paul Metzger, Bill Orcutt, and R. Keenan Lawler, the members of Pelt clearly possess a firm grasp of the American folk vernacular, and similarly honor this history without resorting to pastiche or cliché. It is this fundamental understanding of the art of the recent past that informs Pelt’s music, which one might call “Primitive-Futurist”; a Fourth World approach suggesting a Cumberland Gap Pandit Pran Nath.

Reticence Resistance was recorded live at London’s Café Oto over two nights in February of 2017. The album features the core Pelt lineup of Patrick Best on Grand Piano and harmonium, Mike Gangloff on fiddle, Nathan Bowles on percussion and banjo, and Mikel Dimmick on harmonium, bowls, and bells. The capacious, inviting sound of the performances was captured without effects, using only microphones on the acoustic instruments.

“Diglossia,” which makes up the entirety of Side A, begins with an insistent hammering of piano keys and Gangloff’s swooping fiddle. Soon, Best begins teasing out a scale as Dimmick’s harmonium envelops everything in a luminous sound bath. The way the piece harmoniously advances and recedes, at first almost imperceptibly, recalls Coltrane’s improvisations circa “India” as much as it does ocean currents and lapping waves.

Where “Diglossia” suggests elemental forces, Side B—comprised of the “Sundogs-Chiming-The Door Hill” suite—sounds carnal, like the sustained exhale of a giant beast. Jack Rose’s evergreen composition “Sundogs” opens the side with reverberating bells and gongs. At first the effect is like standing in a hallways listening to four equidistant rooms: Best provides ominous piano clusters thick with overtones; Gangloff’s keening fiddle conjures a kind of microtonal Eck Robertson; Dimmick’s immersive drones swaddle Bowles’ various pecks, probes, and brushes at the banjo. Suddenly, the seemingly disparate pieces appear to gather at the ceiling and locate each other; everything appears to snap into place suggesting the slow transformation of a raga as it develops from the alap section to the gat. The effect is mesmerizing.

Reticence Resistance is a crucial document of Ever Weird America, and quite possibly the band’s finest work to date.

-James Toth